Written by Anthony Moujaes
When Peter Kageyema speaks at the United Church of Christ's General Synod 2013 this summer in Long Beach, Calif., he'll be standing before a different audience to what he is accustomed. Kageyama usually deals with government and business leaders, but his message on July 1 to UCC leaders, delegates and General Synod attendees will be the same — to inspire change through simple ideas that can positively impact a community. Kageyama authored 'For Love of Cities,' a book about the emotional relationship between a person and their community, and how that community flourishes when that bond is tapped.
"The main thrust of what I talk about is to love the place you live," Kageyama said. "With a faith-based group, [community development] is rarely their profession, but people are there for a faith reason."
Kageyama has spoken all over the world about bottom-up community development and the types of amazing people that make change happen. He's shared his message about the connections between citizens and the places they live with people in Australia, Canada, England, Hong Kong, Ireland, Jamaica, Singapore, Trinidad and Rwanda.
"Part of this is to take the message to a nationally-based audience, and talking about the important role in creating a sense of identity, but also in creating a sense of community," Kageyama said. "More of that is falling into non-official organizations, something outside a city government and development group."
The love of community is the basic idea behind the UCC's Faith, In Project, which launched in June 2012 as a call to action for UCC members to make their faith visible by living their faith and loving their communities through mission and community outreach.
"The basis and the message of Peter's book ties in very closely with the Faith, In campaign," said W. Mark Clark, the UCC's associate general minister and Synod administrator. "He's demonstrated success in how to make an impact, and in California (during General Synod June 28 through July 3) we'll have a chance to learn more about what it means to bring change to the places each of us cares about."
There are two steps in turning Kageyama's message into action. The first, he says, people need to recognize they are in a relationship with their community. The second is they need to work to improve it by doing something positive — even if citizens feel they don't know how, or often don't think they have permission — through easy-to-implement actions that create a big impact.
"What are you willing to do for your community?" Kageyama said. "It's one thing to say you love a place. It's another to manifest that."
The book cites a Gallup study, which found that only 24 percent of people were "engaged" with their community, and the related economic impact that results because of a passion or loyalty between people and their community. Communities where citizens are engaged usually experience higher levels of economic growth, the study shows.
Originally from Akron, Ohio, and graduate of The Ohio State University and Case Western Reserve University School of Law, Kageyama practiced law for two years before deciding it wasn't the profession for him. He started a web development firm where he learned about business, and "along the way got into economic development, almost by accident," he said. "But it's been fun."
Kageyama co-founded the Creative Cities, an event that brings together citizens and practitioners around the idea of the city, and was the president of Creative Tampa Bay, a grassroots organization for community change.
Copies of his book will be available at General Synod at the exhibit hall, and Kageyama will be available to sign copies and for a meet-and-greet. Learn more about Kageyama and 'For the Love of Cities' at fortheloveofcities.com.